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China's eye in the sky for all

By ZHANG ZHOUXIANG | China Daily | Updated: 2020-12-04 07:52

The 500-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST, in Pingtang county, Guizhou province, is the world's largest radio telescope. [Photo by Dai Chuanfu/for chinadaily.com.cn]

On Tuesday, the US National Science Foundation confirmed that the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico had suffered a catastrophic collapse. After two cable breaks in August, the three support towers for the instrument platform broke sending it crashing down onto the dish below, damaging the large radio telescope to such an extent that it cannot be used again.

Built in 1963, the Arecibo facility was the world's largest single-aperture telescope for 53 years. In its early years the facility made significant contributions to science, such as correcting Mercury's rotation period from the earlier-predicted 88 days to 59 days, resulting in the rewriting of major theories. It also confirmed the existence of neutron stars. It also revealed Venus's landscape while finding the possible existence of ice on Mercury.

China's Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope completed in July 2016 gave the world a pair of large eyes.

But now FAST is on its own. However, it is no less promising. It has detected hundreds of high quality pulsar candidates, of which 132 have been confirmed. Considering its stability, reliability and high efficiency, FAST can achieve a lot more than Arecibo did.

The best way of cherishing FAST lies, of course, in maintenance. The National Bureau of Statistics data show that in 2019, China's R&D investment reached 2.2 trillion yuan ($335.24 billion), 12.5 percent more than in 2018. Besides, the number of natural science and engineering colleges churning out skilled graduates every year is 518,33 times more than what it was 70 years ago.

All these attest to China's strategic plan of making scientific breakthroughs and entering the world's top ranks.

However, it does not seek hegemony. On the contrary, China is open to sharing its resources and achievements with the world.

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